Harry visits Krum in Sofia, and draws some interesting conclusions
Chapter 5 – The Bulgarian Connection
Harry walked down the narrow street in the less-well-travelled outskirts of Sofia’s magical district. He didn’t look like a tourist; he looked like a hunter, fully aware of everything and everyone around him. He paid little attention to the three wizards following him. Harry knew they thought they were being stealthy. Harry had learned stealth from Sanguini himself, a thank you for stepping between the old vampire and a self-styled “slayer” of dark creatures. He could easily lose the wizards tailing him, but he was in a bit of a hurry and frankly didn’t view the amateur trackers as a threat.
Harry read the street sign, painted into the pavement, “Boyko B. Street,” then turned down an even narrower pedestrian footpath. The people around him seemed to evaporate as the largest of the three men trailing him, in the uniform of the Mage Polizi, chuckled evilly.
“Here we have an American or maybe an English tourist, hoping for a taste of Old Bulgaria.”
Harry sighed and turned slowly to face this latest petty annoyance.
“Nice boots. Dragon hide I think.” The smallest of the three sneered, “I’m sure such fine leather will look better on me.”
“Basilisk,” Harry corrected, “and frankly, it looked better on the snake.”
The trio was surprised to hear a tourist speak perfect Bulgarian.
“Who are you?” barked the policeman, “Show me your identification.”
“I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.” Harry answered evenly.
All three thugs drew their wands, but Harry already had his out, as well as the single action revolver that had been concealed by his long black trench coat. He’d cocked the hammer as he drew the antique weapon. The muzzle of the Colt .45 aimed unwaveringly at the forehead of the large policeman.
“I’ve learned that large-bore, silver bullets are effective against acromantulae, banshees, daemons, harpies, trolls, werewolves and wizards who let their dragon-sized mouths over-ride their snorkack arses.”
“Mister Potter, I presume.” A reedy voice sounded from his left. The query was in English.
Harry didn’t turn his head, “Yes.”
The man glared at the thugs in the alleyway and spoke in Bulgarian.
“Oh, very good, Stefan. You’ve drawn your wand on the most feared auror in Europe, please, don’t let me stop you. This will be entertaining.”
“What are you saying, Dimitri?” the large man asked.
“You and your moronic friends have accosted Harry Potter, destroyer of dark lords and a personal friend of my employer.”
All the blood drained from the men’s faces and three wands clattered to the ground simultaneously.
Dimitri chuckled, “Remember the old Bulgarian saying, Stefan. Quote, Pissing in your own boots will only warm your feet for a little while, unquote.”
Harry holstered the Colt, summoned the three fallen wands and used deft movements to tie the hovering sticks together with a thin wire. Then he held the small bundle of wands in front of his would-be attackers.
“Take them.” he ordered.
Each man grasped his own wand and Harry let go, whispering, “Portus.”
A rush of wind, a cyclonic blaze of color and the three were gone.
“Where’d you send them?”
“The little guy likes my boots, I sent him to the dragon preserve there.”
“Inside or outside the dragon enclosure?”
Harry grinned, “Does it matter?”
The old man laughed. Harry finally got a good look at his maybe ally. Dimitri was tall and thin, very old, and clean shaven. He looked like Dumbledore would have if he’d shaved.
“Dimitri Tschostokovic at your service, Mister Potter.”
Harry nodded, “You are my go-between for Victor?”
“Indeed, I handle his affairs. I would be, in your language, a sort of secretary-solicitor, his arranger, if you will.”
The men walked and exchanged pleasantries. They stopped at a tiny cafe where Dimitri bought two Turkish coffees. Harry grimaced, sipping the sludge, while his host smacked his lips in appreciation. After a few blocks they stood before a single tall building, its ground floor crammed with shops. The upper floors looked like luxury apartments.
“Victor lives here?”
“Yes, on the top floor. Please, Mister Potter, he is expecting us.”
“I’m just Harry, Mister Tschostokovic.”
“Only if you call me Dimitri.”
The old retainer pressed his hand on a simple wooden door, which opened to reveal a luxuriously appointed apartment with a commanding view of Sofia.
Harry turned around, he was still standing on street level, but the view through the open door was from several stories up.
He said, not for the first time, “I love magic.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the Nineteen Ninety Four Tri-wizard Champion!” Krum announced to the room at large as Harry entered. The man was still very fit, bulkier than Harry remembered, but there wasn’t an ounce of fat on him.
The two men embraced as old friends.
“Has it really been eight years?”
Victor had been a guest at Ron and Hermione’s wedding.
“You have grown much, my friend.”
“And you are as fit as ever, Victor.”
Krum put a gentle hand on Harry’s shoulder.
“I was shocked and saddened by the news, I am very sorry for your loss.”
Harry hadn’t expected that, and was moved by the heart-felt sincerity in the Bulgarian seeker’s voice.
“Thank you, Victor. It means a lot to me.”
“How is Hermione taking it?”
This made Harry grin, “You got her name right.”
Victor looked sheepish, “I always knew how to say it. But English girls really go for an exotic accent.”
“She’s better,” Harry allowed, “she’s watching over my two boys while I’m here.”
“You have sons?” Krum looked shocked.
“Yeah, James is three and Albus is almost two.”
“One daughter, Rose, and one on the way.”
Victor sat down and motioned for Harry and Dimitri to take their seats as well.
“I am getting too old. I haven’t yet ‘settled down’ as you English say. But I would like a family of my own someday. Maybe with the right girl.”
Harry hated himself for what he was about to do.
“You could call Hermione; she’d love to hear from you.” Harry cast a subtle, yet powerful, passive legilimency spell and began to read Victor.
“I will call her, but not yet. It is still too new, too painful.” He looked deep into Harry’s eyes and said, “Besides, I know you will take care of her, you always have and always will.”
Harry detected a hint of jealousy there, but he could sense that it had less to do with his relationship with Hermione and more because Harry had enjoyed a relatively happy life surrounded by true friends and family, that is, until very recently. Harry shook his head as if to dislodge the grief always pressing on the edge of his conscious mind.
“So you’d rather not try to be the next man in Hermione’s life?”
Krum shrugged, “Once, maybe, but to her I’ll always just be that big, sweet quidditch player who taught her how to kiss – she needs her friends and family around her now.
Victor’s smile lessened, “Now if you’ll stop with the legilimancy and just tell me how I can help, and what brings you to Bulgaria?”
Harry looked abashed. “I apologize; I find it helps cut through a lot of crap.”
Victor just waited patiently for Harry to go on.
“Someone was possessing Ron, apparently had been for years. I won’t go into the gory details, but let’s just say Hermione’s had a rough go of it for the past few years.”
“She was abused?”
“In the worst way, Victor.”
The quidditch star’s fists cracked, “Do we know who?”
“Someone from Eastern Europe, his language was laced with Bulgarian invectives.”
Some of the warmth left the room.
“That is why you came to me; I’m the only Bulgarian that Hermione knows so I’m suspect.” It wasn’t a question.
“Believe me, Victor; unless or until I find who is responsible for this, everyone is a suspect. Even me.”
“So what now?”
“Can you tell me anything that might help my investigation?”
“I can give you all my memories of the times I visited England and you may read the letters I received from Hermione.”
“There must be a connection between Bulgaria and London; I’m just not seeing it.” Harry groused.
“You do know Karkaroff’s family had many ties to the British ministry?”
“Something Karkaroff’s father did, very hush, hush.”
Harry pulled small mirror from his pocket and called, “Stebbins!”
The young auror’s face appeared in the mirror. “Sir?”
“Get me anything you can on the Karkaroff family’s dealings with the Ministry of Magic. Find the pattern, Upton, connect the dots!”
“Right away, sir!”
Harry put the mirror away and turned to Krum.
“Thank you, do you know if anyone from Bulgaria was jealous of Ron or enamored with Hermione?”
“You mean, besides myself?” Krum asked with a pained smile.
“I need a break here, Victor. If someone had asked me if I thought you had an unhealthy fixation on a girl you met when you were eighteen after ten years I would have told them to go home and sober up.”
“So,” Victor pressed, “I’m no longer suspected?”
“Victor, believe me, as far as I’m concerned you never were.”
The Bulgarian smiled at that.
“Stay for dinner?”
“I’d love to, but I have to get home to my boys, I wouldn’t mind a drink if that wouldn’t be abusing your hospitality.”
“Not at all, have you ever had rakki?”
“What is that?”
“Think of it as Mesopotamian moonshine.”
“Sounds good to me.”
“Zdrasti, Hermione!” Harry said just a little too loudly as the portkey left him spinning on Godrick’s Hollow’s living room rug.
“Daddy!” three tiny voices squealed as James and Albus and Rose dog-piled him.
He kissed all three and looked at Hermione with pleading eyes, “I need the cure,” adding a whine at the last, “pleeease?”
Hermione shook her head and went to the liquor cabinet to retrieve Ogden’s second-best selling concoction – the sobriety potion and hangover cure. She handed an unstoppered, single dose bottle to Harry and stepped back, smirking.
“Nazdrave!” he said and downed the contents of the vial.
He hugged all three kids then jumped up and ran to the loo.
Purged and showered, he returned to the living room fifteen minutes later.
“Merciful Goddess, I hate taking that stuff.”
“Harry, why were we speaking Bulgarian just then?”
“Oh, I needed to find something in Sofia so I dropped in on your old boyfriend.”
“Victor was never my boyfriend, never mind what some people said, he was a good friend and a pen pal and. . .”
“And your first kiss?”
“Harry! I had just turned sixteen, and I’d never been out with anyone. Besides, he was so sweet and vulnerable and. . .”
“Looked good on a broom?”
She smirked, “Well, there was that.”
“Um, not that I mind, mind you, but why is Rose calling me ‘Daddy,’ just now?”
“Oh, something I overheard in the nursery. Rose was sad because she’s lost her daddy and the boys said that they would share you with them and then Rose said that the boys could call me Mummy and. . .”
And it had seemed so sweet at the time, but somehow explaining it to Harry drove home the point that they were both widowed. They both felt like they’d lost half their souls and the better halves at that. They fell into each other’s arms, grieving anew.
Hermione pulled away, “No stiff upper lips here, eh Potter?”
Harry dabbed the tears from his eyes with he sleeves of his jacket, “Sod that, Granger, it’s still too raw, and now I can’t even hide behind my walls.”
“Get a grip,” she said, sniffling, “no one’s going to shag you if you cry all the time!”
The crudity of her comment, the absolute un-Hermione-ness of it, left Harry gobsmacked.
Which had been her intention, after all.
“Let’s have supper,” Harry finally said, “I’m sure there’s a tin of beans around here somewhere.”
“James and Albus got the last tin; Rose got her grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. For you and me its hot Sheppard’s pie and cold butterbeer.”
Harry bucked up at that, his favorite dinner combination, the ultimate in comfort food.
The extended family sat around the kitchen table, content to be in each other’s company.
Harry’s fireplace glowed green, signaling an incoming floo call.
“Lef’ tenant, are you home?”
Harry sighed, “Right here Stebbins, what is it.”
“I think I found your Bulgarian connection. . .”
“Right!” Harry nearly shouted, not wanting his assistant to say anymore in front of the families. “I’ll see you in my office in twenty minutes.”
A very tired Harry leaned back in his office chair. Try as he might he couldn’t find any holes in his erk’s reasoning, but he still didn’t have a solid suspect.
When Harry had flooed into the DMLE office Upton was there with his ledger. One lesson Upton Stebbins had taken to heart was that the blank journals were much better for taking and organizing notes than the handfuls of small scrolls that most aurors kept.
The young auror’s enthusiasm was infectious, “I did what you told me to, sir. I wrote everything we knew, and started finding connections, and then I found everything I could on each of the connections. Finally, I connected the dots.
No big picture yet, but interesting points did arise.
Point: Krum and Karkaroff were Bulgarian.
Point: Karkaroff was a co-conspirator with Rookwood.
Point: Sasha Karkaroff, Igor’s father, created the first cognivores.
Point: Rookwood’s job was the care and feeding of cognivores.
Harry interrupted, “Stebbins, what is a cognivore?”
“CNS, that’s Central Nervous System cores. They look like disembodied brains with ribbon-like tentacles.”
Harry rubbed his temples and groaned, “Oh shite!”
“Zdrasti” Good day and welcome
“Nazdrave” To your health